King Edward Point Diary – August 2008

31 August, 2008

The winter sun has begun to appear from behind the hovering face of Duce just behind the base here at KEP. The sun shine will spread across the base now in the coming months warming the snow which will submit too the South Georgia terrain as it rises up from below the ice.

Living down here in the sub Antarctic is very comfortable. We have all the mod cons and much more and the base is very warm and insulated from the elements. Our generator Mechanic Bob keeps our generators in Tip Top condition and keeps the water flowing through the pipes to keep the rooms warm; a real luxury from the days when there was just the hut stove to provide a source of heat for the food to be cooked on. With the many visitors who pass through KEP many are verterans who have wintered in the Antarctic in the earliest days of the British Antarctic Survey the stories which they have told with their day to day duties brings me to think of how comfortable we are here now.

This month seems to be holding a tradition, with an invitation to a dinner being laid at people’s doors; an evening of Murder Mystery, Mairi, our base commander had organised an Egyptian themed evening with everyone playing a role. Mairi had cooked some delicious dishes based on her time working in S. Africa to really set the mood. As the evening progressed, well, I was no closer than when the evening had begun in trying to work out who the culprit could have been.

With the night progressing and the team tucking into the food time passed very quickly. At the end of the evening, Mairi stood up and concluded the case. For a second year running, Charles was the murderer, but, unbeknown to him he had been hypnotised into the crime by one of the other characters- What a twist !!! A great night and really enjoyed by all…

With our thoughts at this time of the year cast towards our friends and colleagues around the other BAS bases, we thought that it would be a great opportunity to hold our pride high here at KEP and challenge our friends at Halley to an evening of darts. Thanks to the modern communication systems on the bases we managed to setup a webcam and microphone within the lounge area and using the base’s TV projector our friends at Halley where on the Big Screen. After the formalities, the first dart was thrown. Well it wasn’t long before everyone packed the game in calling it a draw and carried on chatting across the digital airwaves. Thanks to all those who stayed up to the early hours of the morning at Halley. It was great catching up with you all and fantastic to be able to speak with friends from conference.

Our close neighbours in the wintering team at Bird Island have some excellent darts players and our dart board here would have its toughest test to date. Probably not through the oncoming game but the heavy nearly around the clock practising which the team here where involved with. The night of the match began quite early for us KEP’ers but our friends at BI, being on GMT where a little ahead of us and had started what must have been a night shift. Well, after two games and all drawn with the final winning double throw going on for a little more than 25 min’s, we sensibly placed the darts to one side in an agreed ceasefire and chatted into the night.

All our “over the hill” communications are handled by the bases VHF repeater station. If we have a team working in the next Bay, over the hills, our radio system struggles to communicate between the 2 stations. Thankfully we have a remote station on one of the high ridges which listens and then re- transmits the message to another radio on the same channel. This is an essential piece of equipment which keeps our teams in contact with base when working over in some of the bays which are “out of sight” of the base here.

Come winter the fallen snow tends to settle on the solar panels which keep the batteries of the station always fully charged, but with the snow settling on the panels the batteries eventually fail and the station shuts down. One of the main jobs during the winter is to head out to the Repeater Station and dig out the panels. All the team members get involved with the chore as with what can be a hard hike up to the ridge will be rewarded with amazing panoramic views over Cumberland Bay and a challenging but fulfilling ski back down to base. The team took two shifts over the next week to replace the batteries at the station and to dig out the panels when the need arose.

This will be my last entry for the diaries at KEP as my contract soon expires after 2 years. Coming from the heavy electrical industry, working in the big smoggy cities and been given the opportunity to live and work in such a remote area of the world has been a real privilege. I think of the time when we first arrived on the Pheros FPV, cornering Cumberland Bay into the Cove and seeing our friends after a 5 day sail that would soon handover to our new team of folk. Inhaling the fresh mountain air and peering into the turquoise glacial waters, the Fur Seals porpoising, effortlessly alongside the boat with the elephant seals lying next to their new born pups on the beach. It’s so much to take in on arriving as we all congregate with a mug of tea, watching the site of Gentoo and King Penguins marching in front of the living room window. Our gazes elevate across the Bay to the snow covered mountains rising into the vanilla blue skies. Soon, your into the swing of the day and the year passes very quickly. Crewing the boats to assist our boatmen in their role’s at KEP in transferring the Fisheries Officers to the different Trawlers or Tooth fish long liners. Assisting the BAS scientists in there work with the penguins & seals forwarding the conservation matters of South Georgia, if not the world. Meeting hardened and respected adventurers from around the world and hearing their stories in the lounge. Being able to have the opportunity to camp at St. Andrew’s Bay where there are over 500,000 King Penguins. The warm joyous nights we have had on a Saturday Evenings when we all make the effort to be smartly dressed for a well prepared 3- course, or sometimes several more dinner. It’s been a fantastic place to live and work for these past 2 years and if there are any electricians out there thinking about having a go down here, just go for it, it’s far more than what you can imagine….